Turnbull to call general election after Budget

SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday said he intends to call national elections after the Budget is delivered next month, with July 2 his target date.

Under Australian electoral rules, he is free to call a vote any time until January 2017, but he has been anxious to revamp a Senate dominated by unaligned minor parties and the centre-left opposition Labor party.

The conservative leader had last month threatened to hold an early general election unless the Senate agreed to pass deadlocked legislation to overhaul unions.

After the Senate voted down a controversial labour reform Bill on Monday, he used a rare constitutional mechanism known as a double dissolution - only allowed after the Upper House rejects a Bill twice - to dissolve both Houses of Parliament and put them to a vote.

Mr Turnbull said delivering the annual Budget on May 3 was his priority. "My intention is after the Budget, an appropriate time after the Budget has been delivered, I will be asking the Governor-General to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament for an election," he told reporters.

He stopped short of confirming the date of the election, but said July 2 would be "a very good assumption".

A campaign effectively lasting 74 days is double Australia's conventional five-week window and adds to a sense of instability that has been battering the country's federal government for half a decade.

The country has repeatedly changed prime ministers since 2010, with Mr Turnbull wresting power from his Liberal Party colleague Tony Abbott in September in a bid to revive flagging popularity.

A millionaire former journalist, lawyer and investment banker, Mr Turnbull took over from Mr Abbott promising a new style of government, but has slipped in the polls in recent months as tax and other reforms have failed to materialise.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Turnbull to call general election after Budget'. Print Edition | Subscribe